Billy the Kid Pardon Debate: Law vs Popular Opinion
Bill Richardson: 'Public Backs Billy the Kid Pardon'
Bill Richardson is sticking to his guns, and considering a pardon of Billy the Kid, borh Henry McCarty. Richardson had promised to reach a decision on whether or not claims that Billy the Kid had already been promised a pardon were true.
Apparently, Billy the Kid had been promised a pardon by New Mexico Territorial Governer Lew Wallace. Bill Richardson's decision is not based on whether Billy the Kid, who killed four law enforcement officers, should be pardoned outright for his crimes, but whether or not a pardon for certain actions taken during the Lincoln County War was already promised, and either reneged upon or not delivered before Billy the Kid's death at the hands of Pat Garrett.
Also at issue was whether or not Lew Wallace's decision would be in any way binding: New Mexico was not a US state at the time, and we don't know if Wallace ever intended to keep his promise. Billy the Kid escaped from jail in April 1881, killing two deputies in the process.
Governor Richardson will assess this petition and decide a course of action sometime after Christmas but before the end of this year. Any decision will be made in light of the explicit concern as to whether one of his predecessors as governor committed the state of New Mexico to a specific act, and whether that pledge was upheld. This is important not only in the context of keeping one’s word, but also as it relates to the rich historical record of the American Old West and New Mexico’s unique place in it.
Mr Richardson's office received 809 emails and letters in the survey that ended on Sunday. Some 430 argued for a pardon and 379 opposed it.
Slim margin notwithstanding, this isn't really the job for internet commenters, but legal historians. Even still, is there any real societal value in scrubbing the misdemeanors from the record of a murderer who died 130 years ago?